27th June - 3rd July 2010. Ballykisteen, Co. Tipperary, Ireland.
The term "enactive" is used to identify a way of thinking about, and a set of methodologies for conducting, cognitive science. This approach to describing, explaining and investigating the mind emphasises the valued, meaningful interaction between a living agent and its environment. It emphasises the continuity between the basic processes of living (e.g. metabolism) and cognition. It recognises the autonomy of living systems and the way in which meaning, thought and experience emerge within the dynamic, skilful activity of the agent - the enaction of meaning, thought and experience.
Standing in contrast to much of mainstream thinking within Cognitive Science, the enactive approach challenges many of the basic assumptions of extant theory. The body (including but not limited to the brain) is considered to have an integral role in the processes of the mind. Cognitive processes are seen as the means by which an agent adapts their behaviour so as to maintain their values (in the simplest case, biological values such as continued existence but in more complex cases, social and cultural values come into play). The nature of such processes is considered to be dynamic and adaptive, rather than a set of structures that are universal and modular in character.
The enactive approach holds the potential to provide a unitary framework within which the entire gamut of cognitive phenomena can be explained, from the basic behaviour of single-celled organisms to the rich and complex modes of thought that are exhibited by human beings embedded in culture. It will take a great deal of work if this promise is to be either properly assessed or realised. The Enaction Schools seek to contribute to this work.
The schools are a series of annual summer events organised with the aim of developing the enactive approach toward maturity as a full paradigm for Cognitive Science. The schools seek to contribute to the enrichment of theoretical accounts and methodological practices, as well as fostering a community of enactive researchers both within and beyond Europe. Week-long and residential, the schools provide key speakers and workshops on important topics relevant to enactive theory and research as well as the opportunity for more spontaneous, participant-driven activities.
Within the enactive approach cognition is defined as skilful activity, and the concept of skill and skilfulness has played a significant role in several avenues of enactive research, particularly, for instance, within dynamic sensorimotor accounts of perception. Despite its central role in enactive thinking, the concept of skill has been poorly explicated thus far in the enactive literature. One of the aims of the 2010 enaction school is to examine the idea of skill, to identify key phenomena and challenges presented by extant research into skilful activity and skilled performance, and to address these issues from an enactive perspective.